Into Thin Air

Mount Everest Symbol Analysis

Mount Everest Symbol Icon

The central symbol of Into Thin Air is, of course, Mount Everest, the tallest mountain in the world. Everest is stunningly beautiful, yet also very dangerous—and Rob Hall’s clients mistakenly think that they’ll be able to enjoy Everest’s beauty while avoiding the danger. In the end, Everest symbolizes the beauty, the unpredictability, the danger, and the awesome majesty of the natural world.

Mount Everest Quotes in Into Thin Air

The Into Thin Air quotes below all refer to the symbol of Mount Everest. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Danger and Mortality Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Anchor Books edition of Into Thin Air published in 1999.
Chapter 1 Quotes

Four hundred vertical feet above, where the summit was still washed in bright sunlight under an immaculate cobalt sky, my compadres dallied to memorialize their arrival at the apex of the planet, unfurling flags and snapping photos, using up precious ticks of the clock. None of them imagined that a horrible ordeal was drawing nigh. Nobody suspected that by the end of that long day, every minute would matter.

Related Characters: Jon Krakauer (speaker)
Related Symbols: Mount Everest
Page Number: 11
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 5 Quotes

This was Doug's second shot at Everest with Hall. The year before, Rob had forced him and three other clients to turn back just 330 feet below the top because the hour was late and the summit ridge was buried beneath a mound of deep, unstable snow. "The summit looked sooooo close," Doug recalled with a painful laugh. "Believe me, there hasn't been a day since that I haven't thought about it." He'd been talked into returning this year by Hall, who felt sorry that Hansen had been denied the summit and had significantly discounted Hansen's fee to entice him to give it another try.

Related Characters: Jon Krakauer (speaker), Doug Hansen (speaker), Rob Hall
Related Symbols: Mount Everest
Page Number: 72
Explanation and Analysis:

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Mount Everest Symbol Timeline in Into Thin Air

The timeline below shows where the symbol Mount Everest appears in Into Thin Air. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Danger and Mortality Theme Icon
The Natural World Theme Icon
...Krakauer, the author, hasn’t slept for 57 hours. He stands at the summit of Mount Everest, “one foot in China and the other in Nepal,” and finds that he can’t summon... (full context)
Danger and Mortality Theme Icon
The Natural World Theme Icon
...Krakauer notes, people will wonder why he, Boukreev, and Harris continued to climb down from Everest and ignored the signs of bad weather. Krakauer had been part of a team of... (full context)
Danger and Mortality Theme Icon
Commercialization Theme Icon
Individualism and the Group Theme Icon
...Krakauer approaches the infamous Hillary Step, a large notch in the Southeast Ridge of Mount Everest. Although Krakauer needs to descend quickly, he sees that three large teams of people are... (full context)
Chapter 2
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The Natural World Theme Icon
Individualism and the Group Theme Icon
...mountain in Nepal—29,000 feet above sea level. Nine years later, Andrew Waugh named the mountain “Everest,” after George Everest, his predecessor at surveyor general. Mount Everest quickly became a popular site... (full context)
Danger and Mortality Theme Icon
The Natural World Theme Icon
Individualism and the Group Theme Icon
Mount Everest is a massive, three-sided pyramid of ice and rock. Most of its early explorers tried... (full context)
The Natural World Theme Icon
Individualism and the Group Theme Icon
...Edmund Hillary of New Zealand and Tenzing Norgay, a Sherpa mountaineer, set out to climb Everest. On May 29, 1953, Hillary and Norgay became the first people to climb to the... (full context)
Danger and Mortality Theme Icon
The Natural World Theme Icon
Individualism and the Group Theme Icon
...old. A team headed by Tom Hornbein and Willi Unsoeld climbed to the summit of Everest via the West Ridge of the mountain. The West Ridge is a highly difficult climb,... (full context)
Danger and Mortality Theme Icon
The Natural World Theme Icon
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Individualism and the Group Theme Icon
Guilt Theme Icon
By the time he was thirty, Krakauer had mixed feelings about Everest—strangely, he thought it wasn’t challenging or beautiful enough to be worth climbing. By that time,... (full context)
Danger and Mortality Theme Icon
The Natural World Theme Icon
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In 1995, one of Krakauer’s editors asked him to join an Everest expedition and write an article about it for the magazine Outside. Krakauer asked for a... (full context)
Chapter 3
Danger and Mortality Theme Icon
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...and Krakauer then meet Lou Kasischke, a lawyer from Michigan who will also be climbing Everest. Krakauer likes Harris’s youthful energy. He learns that Harris has never climbed Everest before. (full context)
Danger and Mortality Theme Icon
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Individualism and the Group Theme Icon
...equipment. While still a teenager, he climbed several mountains, and in 1990 he finally climbed Everest. Hall is known for being a publicity-monger; Hall knows that the more attention he gets... (full context)
Danger and Mortality Theme Icon
Commercialization Theme Icon
...his final years, Edmund Hillary criticized Hall and Ball for contributing to the commercialization of Everest. Then, in late 1993, Gary Ball died of a cerebral edema, a condition caused by... (full context)
Danger and Mortality Theme Icon
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Individualism and the Group Theme Icon
...the other mountaineers assemble at the airport and prepare to fly to the base of Everest. Krakauer’s teammates include Helen Wilton, a mother of four, Yasuko Namba, a personnel director from... (full context)
Chapter 4
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The Natural World Theme Icon
Commercialization Theme Icon
Krakauer and the mountaineering team march toward Everest along the Dudh Kosi, a large river. As Krakauer walks, he notes that the landscape... (full context)
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The Natural World Theme Icon
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Individualism and the Group Theme Icon
...talking to Doug Hansen and Andy Harris. Andy explains that, while he’d never been to Everest before, he’s climbed other Himalayan peaks. He’s married to a beautiful woman named Fiona McPherson,... (full context)
Chapter 5
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...known as the Phantom Alley. After a long day, the team makes it to the Everest Base Camp, located 17,600 feet above sea level. At the base camp, Rob Hall crosses... (full context)
The Natural World Theme Icon
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Individualism and the Group Theme Icon
Krakauer notes that, in no small part, Fischer is the reason that Krakauer is climbing Everest at all. In 1994, Krakauer met Fischer at a party, and Fischer suggested that Krakauer... (full context)
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The Natural World Theme Icon
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...left him because he’s too committed to mountaineering. In part, Doug was able to climb Everest because the students of the elementary school near his home sold T-shirts to help him.... (full context)
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Krakauer worries that his lack of experience with high altitude will prevent him from climbing Everest. But Hall assures him that he’ll be fine. (full context)
Chapter 6
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The Natural World Theme Icon
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Individualism and the Group Theme Icon
The team climbs up Everest. Altogether there are twenty-six people, including Sherpa staff. Hall plans to climb Everest slowly, allowing... (full context)
The Natural World Theme Icon
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Individualism and the Group Theme Icon
...lead the team past the notorious Khumba Icefall, arguably the most dangerous part of Mount Everest. There are huge blocks of ice called seracs in the Icefall, and the challenge of... (full context)
Chapter 7
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The Natural World Theme Icon
Individualism and the Group Theme Icon
Krakauer notes that Everest has always been a haven for “kooks, publicity seekers, hopeless romantics, and others with a... (full context)
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Individualism and the Group Theme Icon
...A few months before, the Taiwanese team tried to climb Mount McKinley in preparation for Everest. However, half the team had to be rescued by the National Park Service due to... (full context)
Commercialization Theme Icon
Individualism and the Group Theme Icon
...team of South Africans—the first people from their country to be granted permission to climb Everest. The leader of the South African team, Ian Woodall, had assembled three lead climbers: Andy... (full context)
Chapter 8
Commercialization Theme Icon
Individualism and the Group Theme Icon
...from corporate sponsors to hire alpinists to guide her up to the top of Mount Everest. Krakauer had never met Pittman before this Everest trip, but he’d heard a lot about... (full context)
Chapter 11
Danger and Mortality Theme Icon
The Natural World Theme Icon
Individualism and the Group Theme Icon
...to Nepal by bicycle, climbs down to Base Camp. He had planned to climb Mount Everest without either Sherpa support or bottled oxygen, and he was a highly experienced climber. He... (full context)
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The Natural World Theme Icon
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...he is sleeping badly and losing weight. Later on, Boukreev claims, “If client cannot climb Everest without big help from guide, this client should not be on Everest.” (full context)
Danger and Mortality Theme Icon
The Natural World Theme Icon
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Individualism and the Group Theme Icon
...argued that using oxygen is “cheating,” and that real mountaineers shouldn’t use oxygen to climb Everest. In the 1970s, a man named Reinhold Messner climbed Everest without oxygen tanks, though some... (full context)
Danger and Mortality Theme Icon
Individualism and the Group Theme Icon
Guilt Theme Icon
...way to honor Chen’s memory. Despite the large number of accidents on the climb to Everest so far, Krakauer and the rest of his team try to remain focused on their... (full context)
Chapter 12
Danger and Mortality Theme Icon
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Individualism and the Group Theme Icon
...the morning of May 10, Hall and his team are approaching the summit of Mount Everest very slowly—since Hall ordered everyone to stay close together. As the team gets closer to... (full context)
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Krakauer reaches the Southeast Ridge of Everest at 5:30 am, with the understanding that he needs to wait for the rest of... (full context)
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...and quickly passes Lopsang. Ordinarily, Lopsang would be at the front of any expedition to Everest; however, he’s tired and extremely nauseous. In part, Lopsang is sick because he’s had to... (full context)
Chapter 13
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...a spare after arriving at the South Summit, a check-in point near the summit of Everest, just below the Hillary Step. The bottles can’t last much longer than 4 or 5... (full context)
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...decision, since they’ve spent close to 100,000 dollars to climb to the top of Mount Everest. And yet, in the end, these three climbers “were among the few who made the... (full context)
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The Natural World Theme Icon
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...working for Fischer), approaching the Hillary Step, the last major obstacle before the summit of Everest. Krakauer notices that Boukreev uses no supplemental oxygen—something that doesn’t seem to be in the... (full context)
Chapter 14
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The Natural World Theme Icon
Individualism and the Group Theme Icon
Once he’s made it to the top of Everest, Krakauer doesn’t linger long; he hurries back to Camp Four, lest he run out of... (full context)
Chapter 15
Danger and Mortality Theme Icon
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Individualism and the Group Theme Icon
...seem, does Hall. Instead, the clients continue ascending. Sandy Pittman arrives at the top of Everest at 2:10, followed by many of the other clients. Doug Hansen doesn’t make it to... (full context)
Chapter 16
Individualism and the Group Theme Icon
...of Krakauer and the leader of the team of climbers making an IMAX film about Everest, radios Woodall, who’s stationed at Camp Four, and asks Woodall to give the South African... (full context)
Chapter 17
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The Natural World Theme Icon
Individualism and the Group Theme Icon
...3:40 pm on the afternoon of May 10, Scott Fischer climbs to the summit of Everest, along with Rob Hall, Makalu Gau, and two Sherpas from the Taiwanese team. Fischer is... (full context)
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...Hansen. So it’s possible that on the night after May 10, Hansen and Hall descended Everest in the middle of a storm. Later, around five in the morning, Hall radios that... (full context)
Chapter 18
Danger and Mortality Theme Icon
The Natural World Theme Icon
...a recreational expedition organized by the Indo-Tibetan Border Police, set out for the top of Everest. Three climbers turn back, while three others succeed in reaching the summit. By the time... (full context)
Chapter 21
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Guilt Theme Icon
...lot of the weight he lost, and spends time with his friends and family. Yet Everest casts a “long penumbra” over his existence. Several weeks later, Krakauer gets calls from Rob... (full context)
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Krakauer faces the truth about his time climbing Everest. Along with Mike Groom, he was the only person on his expedition who climbed to... (full context)
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Out of all the expeditions climbing Everest in May of 1996, it’s amazing that Rob Hall’s was the one to suffer a... (full context)
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...mountain climbers. This would prevent the vast majority of climbers from ever attempting to climb Everest. At the same time, Mount Everest is an intrinsically dangerous business; people die every year... (full context)
Epilogue
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In the months and years following the Everest disaster, Krakauer’s teammates begin to move on with their lives. Lou Kasischke writes Krakauer a... (full context)
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...able to move on with their lives instead of being “haunted” by their memories of Everest. However, Krakauer has been unable to do the same. After reading Krakauer’s Outside article on... (full context)
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Krakauer’s Outside article about Everest prompts other angry responses, especially from relatives of the deceased climbers. Scott Fischer’s sister writes... (full context)
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The 1996 Everest disaster hurts or destroys many other people’s lives. Sandy Pittman quickly becomes the target of... (full context)